Saturday, August 2, 2014

It's PitchWars Time!!! Are We Meant to Be?

Welcome to the 2014 version of PitchWars! I had so much fun last year as a mentor with my amazing #teamonfire that I jumped at the chance to sign up as a mentor again. 

So, who am I? I’m Jaye Robin Brown, or Jro, which is what most people call me. I’m a writer, a public high school art teacher, an animal lover, and an avid reader. My writing is fueled by coffee, chocolate, and laughter! My debut novel is a young adult contemporary set in the mountains of North Carolina (where I happen to live!). It’s about family and mistakes and truth and longing.  But mostly it’s about Amber Vaughn who dreams of singing on stage but whose circumstances keep getting in her way. And let’s not forget the cute boy with the banjo. And it finally, finally, finally is coming out this fall. December 9th to be exact. (No Place To Fall - Harper Teen 2014)

I don't have a degree in writing or even English, but I've been at this for a while now, including an entire editorial process with my editor at Harper Collins for NPTF and now two new editorial processes - one for the 2nd book in my contract and one for a sekret project. I've seen one CP get two huge book deals, another sell her own memoir to Sourcebooks, another sell a YA trilogy, a non-fiction book, and a NA series all in two years, and several more get agented, who are now out on submission. 

My last year's mentee, Nina Moreno, garnered the second most requests of all of Pitchwars and both of my alternates (last year we had two) got requests during the various contests associated with Pitchwars. Though their perfect agent matches haven't happened yet, they are all still very much in the game with last year's entries. And to brag even more (because that's what we're supposed to do here, right, convince you to pick us?), I talked last year's Pitchwars' winner into entering her manuscript. Of course I couldn't pick her, but hey, I've got good taste, yo. 

What do I like in writing? I like fully realized characters, VOICE, and big hearts and pretty words.  Think commercial fiction with a literary bent to the writing. I love characters who grapple with the question of life and how to best live it. I also love setting as character - transport me! Make me live in your world! And smart humor makes me weak in the knees. 

So what's on my wish list? It must all be Young Adult.

If you can make me feel like this, I want you!
I love Contemporary fiction that involves a larger cast of characters. Give me families and parents. I also love a good romance. Serious subject matter is fine, as are LGBT characters and twisty thrilling plot lines. The hard stuff doesn’t scare me neither does a bittersweet pill, but as you can see by the following list, I like a good summer romance, too. (Contemporary faves are A.S. King, Sara Zarr, Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, Holly Cupala, Sarah Dessen, Ashley Elston, Emily Murdoch)  I’m not wild about mean girls or snarky gossip style contemporaries or dark just to be dark (rather than tackling a real social issue - though rape and eating disorders are not for me), I’m probably not your best bet there. Smart with heart is my jam. Choke me up!

I also love a good Survival/Adventure story. I loved Terry Lynn Johnson's Ice Dogs, and the forthcoming The Walled City by Ryan Graudin. I still want to get invested in character first and foremost and of course, the plot must barrel forward and keep me on the edge of my seat. And again, the setting must draw me in like a character.

Magical Realism/Spirituality is awesome. For me this means a contemporary set novel, with a touch of the mystical. The two examples that come to mind are, unfortunately, not published. One is last year's PitchWars winner, The Sea Wolves, that dealt with island beliefs about orcas. The other is the forthcoming Islands At the End of the World which is this fantastic mashup of adventure, post-apocalypse, and Hawaiian spirituality. But think Chocolat or Like Water for Chocolate for the YA crowd.

In Science fiction/near-future - Sociological sci-fi (versus hard science sci-fi) - think Beth Revis’ trilogy or The Adoration of Jenna Fox. I also really enjoyed The Color of Rain (prostitutes in space) and the forthcoming Extraction by Stephanie Diaz.  I love things that question political structures, medical issues and environmental issues (fracking anyone?) but I am super tired of the enslaved future woman trope where they have to marry a certain guy and it's like the future has harkened back to the victorian era for women. No. But most important is a sizzling fast pace and suspense and thrills that keep me turning the page and the kind of visual world building that takes me to your universe. And I am a Browncoat, through and through.

I also love Historical Romance, straight or LGBT, especially if it has a new twist to a much done time frame, but I love the old west, the civil war, WWII having to do with the camps (a gay Holocaust story! - yes!). I'm also open to something in an exotic locale. I can't promise to be a help on your historical facts, BUT if you’re looking for story, character, voice, pacing feedback, then YES! (Jennifer Donnelly is a favorite and I loved Jenn McGowan’s Maid of Secrets, Megan Shepherd's Madman's Daughter, Anne Blankman's Prisoner of Night and Fog, Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin, and Julie Berry’s All The Truth That’s In Me.) I like HEA and Bittersweet in equal doses.

If retellings, mythology, freaky/scary horror, high fantasy, and elementals are your thing, then I’m probably not for you.

How am I as a critique partner?
My CP’s often preface their e-mails with “I know you’ll be honest with me,” and that’s true. If I see areas that need work, I’m not going to skip it. But I’m not going to be an ass, either. I’ll point out your strengths and what is all “Heck Yeah!” and “Gorgeous!” but I’m also going to point out where you might think about reworking. My notes are often in forms of questions. I don’t want to tell you how to write your story, but sometimes I might want to get you thinking about things. I'm not scared of losing characters, changing POV's, or deleting entire scenes. My philosophy is that words are cheap and if they're not serving the plot, then they need to go, no matter how pretty they are. (Scared yet?) My preferred way to approach is a full read, big picture notes (which will include any writerly tics I see), then a 2nd read for line edits. So you'll need to be prepared to dig in! But it will be fun, I promise! 

So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I hope you pick me! There’s a bit more about me on my website,  But truly, you can’t go wrong with anyone on this list. I look forward to reading your work! It's also true I only get to pick one of you, but know that I will read each submission with a careful eye. With a debut looming, I can't promise personalized feedback for each person who submits to me (last year took far more time than I imagined—being a mentor has given me insight into how crazy it must be for an agent) but I know it's important for you all so I will try and let you at least know which category you fall into, ie: not for me, writing not quite ready, etc., if you do pick me.

Remember, it often will boil down to market or personal taste because I feel pretty certain I'm going to be reading some AMAZING entries! FOR SUBMISSION GUIDELINES PLEASE VISIT

May the odds be ever in your favor!

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  1. Hi, Jaye! I'm really excited to see you're interested in commercial with a literary bent and that you're open to the hard stuff. Smart with heart is what I'm aiming for! I'll definitely be submitting to you. :-)

    1. Well, hello, Emily! I'm so happy you think we'd be a fit!

  2. SO happy to find a fellow North Carolinian! (Alas I write adult so I can't submit to you this year - maybe next year?) :)

  3. Hi Jaye,

    Really enjoyed this post. You sound like you'd be great fun to work with. Quick question. You mention Historical Romance as an interest. I love some of the examples you gave (Jennifer Donnelly & The Madman's Daughter), but I hadn't really thought of them as Romance. So are you up for historical genre (mysteries in particular) with romantic subplots?

    1. You're so right. No, they're not romance in the ROMANCE sort of way, and romantic subplot is really more what I mean. I love historical novels with a storyline of romance whether it be the main one, or a subplot. (Like in Anne Blankman's Prisoner of Night & Fog, the romance is fabulous and tender, but not the main plot at all)

  4. Hi Jro,
    Excited to see you want survival. Would an apocalyptic survival be good to sub to you? Thanks for your time!

    1. I love those types of novels. However, it would need a unique hook or a voice that is outstanding, mainly because the market got quite glutted with the dystopian/apocalyptic genre and still hasn't bounced back. Right now it's sort of like paranormal. And I'm sure I'm going to end up having hard decisions, and the market and what agents are looking for will sway that final decision. That said, great writing, voice, and hook trumps all, and if you've got something absolutely winning, it won't matter what the genre is.

  5. Hi, Jro.
    Your wish list is music to my ears. My YA contemporary has lots of characters, family and parents are key to the story and, best of all, ( I think) the story is set in NC. I live in VA, but spend a lot of time in NC and both states are dear to my heart. I've read all of the mentor blogs and you are # 1 for my book. Thanks for making my choice an easy one.

    1. Fantastic! I look forward to seeing your manuscript.

  6. Hi this is my first Pitch Wars so I'm just figuring out the ropes! Excited! Would you be interested in Romeo and Juliet in modern Belfast?1st person YA, 2 POV, grief, family issues, and sectarianism? Thanks for considering!

    1. Sounds interesting. I can't think of a current YA set in that conflict area.

    2. Great, thanks! :P

  7. Hi Jaye!
    Since we couldn't personalize our entries, I wanted to stop by and tell you why I chose you. I think my characters and their relationships are the strengths of my manuscript, with the voice and plot to back them up. I also adore your Firefly .gif. Then Goodreads suggested your book to me yesterday, and I knew you were the right choice for me! I can't wait to read No Place To Fall!


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